April 13, 2017

upward facing dog
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana: Upward Facing Dog Pose

Upward Facing Dog — Urdhva Mukha Svanasana — is a backbend that lengthens and strengthens the spine, torso, and arms. Its name comes from four Sanskrit words: urdhva means ‘upward’, mukha means ‘face’, svana means ‘dog’, and asana means ‘pose’.

Upward Facing Dog (also known as “Upward Dog” or just “Up Dog”) is an important part of Sun Salutations and Vinyasas. It can be used as a strength builder and also as a step toward deeper backbends.

Like Chaturanga, Urdhva Mukha often gets treated like a transition, but it’s a pose in its own right, so I encourage you to spend a few breaths in it, appreciating its subtle difficulty 😉

You can come into the pose from Knees, Chest, Chin or Plank Pose. We’ll come into it from Chaturanga Dandasana:

  • Untuck your toes so the tops of your feet press down into the mat
    yoga tutorial: upward facing dog
  • On an inhale, press into your hands as you straighten your arms, lifting your chest
    • The shoulders should be directly above the wrists
    • Do not lock out the elbows, engage the biceps and triceps
  • Pull the shoulder blades towards each other and down your back
  • Keep the core engaged
  • Press down firmly through the tops of your feet
  • Strongly engage your leg muscles to keep your thighs lifted off the floor
  • Keep the shoulders down and away from the ears
  • Reach the crown of the head towards the sky, lifting the gaze only if it’s comfortable – do not crunch the neck
  • Only straighten your arms as much as your body allows
  • Deepen the stretch as your practice advances, but avoid straining to achieve a deeper backbend.
Modifications:
  • Place yoga blocks under your hands
  • Practice Cobra Pose as an alternative if Upward Facing Dog is not working for you
Benefits:
  • Stretches the chest and spine
  • Strengthens the wrists, arms, and shoulders
  • Improves posture
  • Firms the glutes, shoulders, and abdomen
  • Stimulates the abdominal organs, improving digestion
  • Helps ease sciatica pain
  • Energizes
  • Prepares you for deeper backbends
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About the author 

Natalie

I am a yoga teacher who focuses on bridging the gap between what happens on the mat and life off the mat. Yoga is life – it is meant to be lived!

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